Before we know it, those big yellow Gwinnett County Public School buses will begin rambling down our roads. In the weeks before students return to school, parents will begin scrambling for the latest fashions, as well as shopping for school supplies, menu planning for school lunches and prepping for the big day… the First Day of the New School Year. While many parents may have this back-to-school season down to a science, we should always consider “is there a way to do it better?” or in the case of Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful fans “is there a way to make back-to-school more planet-friendly?” Here are just a few ways you can do just that – saving the planet while teaching your children a valuable lesson in environmental stewardship:
- Hop on Board the School Bus: Besides walking or riding a bike to school, embracing public transportation is one of the best ways to decrease our carbon footprint as a nation. Encouraging your child to ride the school bus is a terrific early lesson in the importance of public transportation, plus it can be an impactful social time with his or her peers before and after school. While you may enjoy the precious time you share with your child in the carpool line before school, just think about all of the emissions from all of the cars in that same line floating up into the atmosphere as you idle while waiting for the bell to ring. If you do choose to drive your child to school, consider carpooling with other students who go to the same school or limiting the number of days that you drive them.
- Use Reusable Packaging for Lunchtime: According to One Green Planet, the average person uses one pound of plastic sandwich bags per year (which is roughly 540 baggies). Of the 300 million tons of plastic we produce globally annually, 78% is not reclaimed or recycled. Much of it winds up in our waterways and oceans – to the tune of 8.8 million tons. As a matter of fact, it’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than there are fish. There’s a simple fix and it begins with your child’s lunchbox. Invest in reusable packaging. Reusable lunch containers, utensils and water bottles can be your way of saving our oceans – one sandwich at a time.
- Take a Worldview when Considering Their Wardrobe: Even the clothes we wear can have an impact on our global environment. One Green Planet indicates that recent studies have shown that polyester, nylon and acrylic fabrics shed thousands of tiny plastic microfibers when they are washed. That wash water ends up in our sewage system and eventually in our oceans. When shopping for back-to-school fashions, consider investing in more eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp. Sustainable clothing companies you might want to consider include Alternative Apparel, United by Blue, G Star Raw and EcoVibe, among others. You can also shop for “vintage” clothes at consignment shops and thrift stores like Goodwill.
- Purchase Recycled/Recyclable School Supplies: Nearly all parents with school-age kids have braved the store aisles, pushing a cart with one hand and holding a school supply list with the other. If you plan to shop before the mad rush really begins, you can be a little more selective with your choices. Opt for supplies that are made from recycled materials. Since most plastic binders contain PVC, look for binders made of cardboard or covered in fabric. Choose water-based markers and beeswax-based crayons. Some of these may be hard to find in the big box stores, so you may want to order them online.
- Encourage Your Child to Join the Green Team at School: Before school begins, get your child excited about the upcoming school year and all of the promise that it holds. While they might consider joining a number of clubs that fit their interests or sports that fit their talents, you might want to encourage them to join their school’s Green Team in order to have a hand on impacting their environment at a hyperlocal level. If their school doesn’t have an environmental club or program, imagine how AWESOME it would be if they had a hand in starting one!